Op-Ed

Social engineering in state House

The Kentucky House has been busy with measures dealing with social change. House Bill 58, passed 94-0, mandates that a device be attached to a DUI offender's vehicle that would not allow the car engine to start if the driver failed a sobriety test operated by a machine embedded in the device, assuming the driver is still sober enough to find and activate the device.

Good idea? Of course, but only if the driver and not a less-drunk passenger (or a dog) activates the device. The DUI threshold for tolerance in Kentucky is 0.08.

At what setting would the the device indicate as safe — 0.04, 0.02 or maybe 0.07? A driver pulled over by an officer is not a DUI candidate if he checks in at 0.07. Logically and legally, then, the safe limit would be at 0.07.

That's not good enough, especially since people should never drive if they have imbibed alcohol in any amount. The difference between legally drunk and not drunk (0.01), besides being infinitely small, means nothing to a family whose loved one is killed by a driver checking in at 0.07, making him insusceptible to a DUI murder/manslaughter charge that can be lodged against a driver checking in at 0.08.

The device would be susceptible to tampering that could render it useless. Would the offending driver be required to submit his car for testing once a month, once a week or ever? If not, it's useless.

A much better punishment for a DUI offense would be the impoundment of the car. The offender couldn't tamper with this solution and, more important, wouldn't be on the road in it again for six months or maybe a year or more for a second offense.

Such a law would have actual teeth.

House Bill 35 allows anyone over 18 years of age to acquire a protective order against whomever is deemed a threat. These orders are currently aimed at domestic violence victims — married couples and those who have a child together.

But under this bill, any 18-year-old can apparently petition the court for protection. Imagine the extra effort and expense required of law enforcement to monitor what could be an act of revenge by a high school senior girl against the guy who drops her for another lovely.

This is social engineering gone amok. Why set the age-limit at 18? Why not 14, an age when a possible victim is far more vulnerable, especially in the world of bullies? Do minors lack equal rights?

House Bill 225 has been passed out of both the Education and Appropriations and Revenue committees and would raise the school-dropout-age from 16 to 18, at least eventually. I spent five years teaching mostly high-school math, learning firsthand how dealing with the no-learners steals huge amounts of time from teaching both the slow learners and the bright ones.

Teachers shouldn't face this problem. The students are the ones who suffer, denied the ultimate opportunity to excel or at least obtain a passing knowledge of any subject. The big news lately is that only 34 percent of high school grads in Kentucky are equipped for either college or careers — intolerable, especially considering the inordinately huge segment of state and local budgets dedicated to education.

Except in rare cases, a 17-year-old entering 10th grade instead of 12th is too academically impaired to do more than take up space except, perhaps, for one subject of interest.

It would be better to direct that student into an endeavor outside the school setting in which to be successful.

Simply blaming teachers for lacking motivational skills is not the answer. Forcing them to handle uninterested, often disruptive, non-learners exacerbates their problems.

None of these efforts is worth much and all could be harmful, as in encouraging DUI wannabes to achieve 0.07 by checking breath-status in the parking lot.

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